Monday, August 31, 2015


I really do like the planning for an event. I can even enjoy the pre-party cleaning. The event itself is always fun. But the very best part?

When it is all over.

As a self-described "high functioning introvert", I can maneuver through social situations so smoothly that people who don't know me well would never guess I'm an introvert. But boy, once I hit that "I've had enough social interaction for now" wall, sweet, solitary silence is what I need. Lots of it.

The dessert gathering with the neighbors went very well. A good time was had by all, and everyone said they would like to do it again (note that no offers to host the next one came along with those statements). The cream cheese torte was a huge hit, as it always is.

Some notes:

- Of the nine people in the room, I was one of the two people who are still working full time. Everyone else is at least partially retired. I may well have also been the youngest person in the room, which doesn't happen very often at my stage of life.

- My doorbell plays the Westminster chimes (only the first two measures of the linked audio, thank heaven), quite loudly. For the last two years, it's only worked off and on, even though I've changed the batteries and checked out the workings of the button. Well, either that, or delivery guys just prefer to knock.

You know where this is going, don't you? The darn thing worked every single time a neighbor rang it yesterday. They must just have the touch.

- Three neighbors thought to bring thank you gifts - each brought a bottle of wine. I've been down to dregs for a couple of months, with no time to wander the aisles of the liquor store, so these were most welcome.

- Stupid dining room table. It's been extended for a long time, and I wanted to shrink it to the smallest size for this event (at its smallest, you can still seat six; with all the extra boards, you can set a full jury around it). But the two halves just would not join. The pins and holes lined up, but I couldn't get it to close. Naturally, I thought of what I might have been doing wrong as I was falling asleep last night.

The table is technically an antique, as my parents bought it when they bought the house, fifty-one years or so ago. If I decide to keep it (versus get a new table to match the hutch I'd eventually like to get) it will need a major sprucing up. One of the leg braces is cracked, the chairs need new seating boards, upholstery and covers. The top of the table is in pristine condition, thanks to quality table pads, but the rest could use refinishing. It would cost me as much to have that done as to buy a new table. But it is a gorgeous, French provincial thing made by Thomasville...I'd hate to sell it to someone who wouldn't really appreciate it.

The thing that vexes me most about the table? It is a true oval. Finding the correct type of tablecloth is challenging, to say the least.

- The house is delightfully clean and uncluttered (um, remind me again where I "temporarily" stored some of that clutter?). This may finally give me the push I need to find permanent homes for some stuff.

One neighbor is interested in a murder mystery dinner, and has a friend who would enjoy it, too. Maybe in early November...I may be recovered by then.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Six signs that Autumn is coming

- Starbucks is selling off their cold cups at 30% off. A few frappucino flavors will disappear soon, gone until next spring.

- Walmart's Christmas lay-away plan starts on Friday.

- Walgreens already has their Halloween display set up.

- School supplies are pretty well sold out across the city.

- Winter coats go on sale soon.

- Next week's average temperature will be 86 degrees, with 75% humidity.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


It's been a week, but I don't seem to have anything of substance to say, or my brain can't manage to put together two consecutive sentences on the same basis subject. Not that any of that will keep me from trying...

Jury duty - I was called to serve in May, but postponed, due to the need to file the university tax return right about the same time. As a reserve, I needed to check by phone or web after 5:30 p.m. this past Sunday to see whether I had to report at 9 the next morning. I wasn't needed, but the message said to check at noon on Monday to see if I needed to report at 2 p.m. that day. I didn't, but had to check again after 5:30 to see if I had to report on Tuesday...

Whereupon I did not have to report, but had to check again at noon to see if I had to go in this afternoon.

Ay. I'm seriously considering bringing suit for pain and suffering. My blood pressure, I'm sure, has been elevated the last couple days due to the uncertainty. I know I haven't slept well, and have felt vaguely and/or actively anxious.

Party time - After four years, I am finally having the neighbors over. The invitations went out in the mail today for a dessert party the afternoon of the last Sunday of this month. Easy peasy - my fool-proof, feeds-a-crowd cream cheese tort and a vanilla pound cake, with various berries available for toppings. A pan of Lethal Layers. Probably a bowl of mixed fruit for those who won't eat the goodies. Coffee. Lemonade.

The baking is the easy part. Let the massive cleaning effort begin (I really shouldn't stress over this. After all, I've only been in one other person's place in the four years I've been here - people just don't invite others in anymore. The kitchen and bathrooms are spotless, and if there is a little dust and clutter elsewhere, hey, that's how I roll).

Reading - Why yes, I've not put up the nonfiction books I've read the last several months. I'm trying, truly, but the siren call of fiction is difficult to ignore, especially in the summer. My reading time is down overall, anyway, primarily due to spending more time sewing. It seems I can't have my cake and eat it, too.

Daylight, or lack thereof - It's not all that long ago that when I rolled out of bed at 4:30, I could see my way around the condo by the light that came in the windows. Now, however, the sun doesn't rise until about the time that I leave the house to go to work, just after six.

Both living room lamps are on timers. The lamp next to my usual chair only has a single on/off, set from early evening to bedtime. The other lamp has a fancy digital timer, with two on/off cycles, one similar to the other lamp, the second set to illumine the dark first floor in the early morning hours. That lamp's light bulb has been burned out since the beginning of May; not until this week have I really seen (ahem, not seen) enough reason to replace that bulb.

Winter is indeed coming.

Speaking of changing seasons - The neighbor party is August 30th. In the normal course of things, I'd put out my autumn d├ęcor then. Will it be strange to have it out already for that party? Rushing the season? No clue what the weather will be - this being Wisconsin, it could be mid eighties as we've been having, or a high in the low sixties, so the weather is no real help in deciding if it is too early.

Gratuitous television recommendation - The Last Ship on TNT is fantastic. I don't have cable, but have been buying the series episode by episode on Amazon Prime. The first season is now available on Netflix, but DVD only. Season two is currently running; they've already been picked up for season three. Briefly, a plague has decimated the earth. The US Navy destroyer Nathan James has been on radio silence up in the arctic while the plague takes hold. Unbeknownst to the commander, the research scientist they have along is actually looking for the primordial strain of this flu. The fun starts when they are attacked by the Russians.

Filmed on board an actual destroyer, with active Navy participation and guidance, it's directed by Michael Bey of Transformers fame. Episodes are movie-quality cinema, the acting (Eric Dane and Adam Baldwin, to start) is superb. If nothing else, it's worth watching to see the ship in action.

Have I talked about the series before? Probably - it's that good. Or rather, it is extremely refreshing to see our armed forces portrayed in a positive light, even if it has to be in an apocalyptic story.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

If you blink, you miss it

On my way up to bed, I stuck my head out the front door to grab the mail. As I generally do, I took a look down at the new bushes, to make sure they hadn't turned completely brown and died overnight (anything is possible). I glanced back at the other new bush, and was pleasantly surprised.

The reblooming lilac rebloomed.

From what I could see, there was one mostly spent blossom and another that had just fully opened. There may be one or two on the other side I couldn't see from the door (barefoot and on my way to bed, remember?).

True, the blossoms were a bit thin, with the little flowers in each bunch far enough apart that you can see the center stem in the gaps. But there were flowers.

Maybe I'm not so helpless a gardener as I claim.

I'd not really expected another bloom this season, given the transplanting and that stretch of 80 degree weather we had - something like sixteen days of unrelenting heat, without much rain. I'd been soaking the bed when I could, but probably not as optimally as the plants would like. As I mentioned the other day, the bush has more than doubled in size, but the individual branches still look a bit spindly.

In an uncharacteristically cautious move, I kept the old wire trellis the clematis had been tied to pulling down. From the looks of things, I may want to eventually tie some of the lilac back, to keep it from overcoming the evergreen shrubs and blocking the front door. At it's current rate of growth, that is not out of the realm of possibility.

Speaking of growth - am I supposed to cut the lilac back at all, and if so, in the late fall, or early spring?

Friday, August 07, 2015

Keep, donate, donate...good grief, I still have that?

Alas, this weekend will not be spend sewing cute little owls on the rest of the fleece blankets. At least, not all of them; I should be able to squeeze in one.

Easter Seals is coming for a pick up on Wednesday, so the much talked about decluttering and sorting of clothes is a priority for the weekend. Given how prone I am to decision fatigue, this kind of marathon clearing gets interesting. At a certain point I'm equally likely to exclaim, "I can't do this anymore! Just leave it - I can do this some other time.", or, in an off-with-their-heads fashion, "That's it! Take it all! Take it all, I say!"

Yeah, it's fun being me.

If enough is cleared, I can start on the final stages of reorganizing and decorating, which should be fun.

Other than that, cleaning the rest of the house, baking/cooking for the freezer and a bit of outside work should fill up the rest of the weekend. Not what you would call exciting, but it keeps me out of trouble and the results make life a bit more pleasant.

So, what are your weekend plans?

Monday, August 03, 2015


One of the selling points of this particular development is that is it is the oldest condo development in the state, therefore, the landscaping is mature.

A great example of this are the trees scattered throughout the grounds. A couple of units east of my place, there is a majestic maple tree in the grassy space between my building and the one across the way. The tree towers over our two story building. In the spring, there is a great view of its helicopter-like seed pods floating to the ground from my living room.

We've had incredible straight line winds this summer, as various fronts pass through with sharp changes in atmospheric pressure. These winds always seem to come from the west-to-south corridor. The tree tosses quite a bit, but bends rather than breaks.

Last night we had a short, but violent storm. We actually didn't bear the brunt of it; places north had small funnel clouds, golf-to-baseball sized hail and even stronger winds.

The change in pressure did me in. I've been working on a massive headache all weekend. Tylenol barely touches it, but does a great job upsetting my stomach. This morning, I woke up with the worst headache of my life, plus a rather violently upset stomach. Ack. Called in, went back to bed.

Only to be woken about an hour and a half ago by the dulcet sounds of...a chain saw.

I had checked this morning, before going back to bed - the tree was still standing, there were no branches on the ground, it hadn't been struck by lightning.

It appears, from the length of time they have been working and the manner in which they are going about it, the goal is to take the tree entirely down. I'm a bit in shock. I know the neighbor across the way (in front of whose unit the tree sits) hates it for the messy seed pods. All of us have to deal with the shower of leaves in the fall. But surely, if they were worried about parts coming down, a good trimming would take care of it?

If it does come down, it will be doubly expensive for me. Not only will I help pay for the removal through the association fees, I will have to buy curtains for the huge, irregularly shaped (read: need to order custom) windows above the patio doors. When the place was painted two years ago, I took down (and tossed out - they were in bad, bad shape) the sheers that covered those upper windows. There is great light until about mid morning, when the sun moves behind the maple tree. Without the tree to shade things, the sun will come in those windows blazingly hot until at least noon - longer during the summer. In addition to the need to buy curtains, I can expect my air conditioning bill to go up until I actually get some.

Then there are the displaced birds (the squirrels, nasty tree-rats, can go hang). We have a fairly wide variety of songbirds nesting in the area, including in that maple. Makes me kind of glad I didn't put up a feeder this year, if they all go elsewhere.

Given the dysfunctional state of our HOA board, and their less than amicable relationship with some of the homeowners, I'm not quite sure what to think about this. Was there actual damage I didn't see? Was the removal planned ahead of time, due to interior damage? If it was scheduled ahead of time, why couldn't the board be bothered to give us some sort of notice? (oh wait - duh, I know the answer to that one)

Meantime, my head is about to fall off or explode, or both, thanks to the noise. There's no telling how long this will go on, and the two guys who are working on it don't have any sense of urgency at all.

If you need me, I'll be the one curled up in the fetal position in the corner furthest away from that side of the condo, a pillow or two over my ears and a blanket over my head.

Update: Well, it's still standing, but everything within twenty feet of the ground has been stripped away. They also butchered a much smaller tree closer to my unit - truly a little thing, and they way they trimmed it, it will either die off, or fall over because it is so lopsided now. The guys are in the process of spreading all sort of dirt under the maple - wheelbarrows full in an awfully wide swath. A lot of good it's doing - the wind is blowing at a steady sixteen miles per hour, and most of the dirt is just flying all over. I'm afraid that if I poke my head out to get the mail, I'll have an asthma attack. One can only hope they will at least wet it down before they leave. One would also assume they intend to sow grass seed.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Whooo's having fun on a Saturday

In spite of getting a full night's sleep, I woke up a bit out of sorts, about quarter to six (that is actually pretty late for me; four-fifteen is the usual time). After messing around for a bit, I went back to bed for an hour.

Didn't help the mood.

A houseful of groceries did, though. Fried up some potatoes, onions and mushrooms and topped the mess with a couple of scrambled eggs. The two cups of coffee probably helped.

The plan was to spend a good part of the day sorting things to give away. Easter Seals is picking up the third Wednesday in August. Since it finally is August, I'd better start sorting.

Eh. Didn't feel like it.

I wandered into the studio, intending (really) just to put away everything from the Crazy Cabin project. But part of the "mess" is a stack of fleece cut into various sizes, meant to be made into little blankets for Project Night Night. I'm waiting for the fabric I ordered for a quilting job for a friend, so...


First owl. The color of the thread on that bottom
piece isn't as pink in real life.
Second owl. Who says the owl has to be "owl"
There are seven of these  little fleece blankets all told. Once all the embroidery is done, I get to play with the binding attachment for the machine. In theory, you feed your long bias strip into the attachment, which screws into the bed of the machine. The gadget double folds the strip and lines it up perfectly around the edge of your quilt or fabric as you feed it into the machine, sewing it all down. By the time I finish binding seven of these (not to mention turning 28 corners), I should be an expert.

Project Night Night includes a blanket, a book and a stuffed animal in the totebags for the kids. When I saw this, how could I resist?

These are pretty small - in spite of what it looks like,
there are only two sizes, the larger of which
finishes at nine inches tall.
The fabric I'm using for the applique is all bird themed - feathers,birds, swirly things and more feathers. I've more than enough to make a stuffed owl for each blanket.

This is all an "in between" project - something I work on when I'm not actively trying to get something else finished. Each owl takes an hour or so (I actually simplified the second one, reducing the number of applique pieces by three) plus the time to set up, cut stabilizer, chose fabric and find thread. I've a number of these kinds of filler projects; getting some of them done will decrease the volume of stuff in the studio.